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Minorities and nomads excluded by housing ‘local connection’ test
Homelessness in Dublin city centre Pic: RollingNews.ie

04 Mar 2021 / ireland Print

Minorities and nomadic groups excluded by housing ‘local connection’ test

Mercy Law Resource Centre (MLRC), which provides free legal advice and representation for people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, has called for urgent action to help minority groups in Ireland to access housing services.

The call came as the organisation launched a report on the issue, which was funded by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC).

'Decisive action' call

MLRC said there were a number of “serious barriers” to housing facing minority ethnic groups, which account for around 65% of its clients.

“Decisive action is now needed on foot on this report to alleviate the suffering and distress of these individuals and families,” the group said.

The rules governing applications for social housing by foreign nationals are set out in Department of Housing Circular 41/2012, but MLRC says this should be used by local authorities only for guidance, “underpinned by proper training for relevant decision-makers and updated to reflect current Irish immigration law”.


The report also contains a call for local authorities to treat the ‘local connection test’ — part of the application process for social housing supports — as discretionary, rather than conclusive.

MLRC says this would prevent potentially unlawful discrimination against minority groups, particularly those who have recently arrived in Ireland or those who have a nomadic culture.

The report also urges the “appropriate and proportionate use” by local authorities of the ‘alternative accommodation test’, under which applicants for housing supports must show that they do not have suitable alternative accommodation.

It says the practice of asking minority applicants for “burdensome” documents on property ownership abroad should end.


MLRC solicitor Paul Dornan said the organisation had recently seen a small number of what he called “worrying” cases of families from a minority background being failed by the system, refused access to emergency accommodation, or being asked to prove a ‘local connection’ to the local authority from which they were seeking emergency accommodation.

“While we have been able to intervene positively in cases referred to our service, we remain concerned about the lawfulness and transparency of some homeless assessments,” he said.

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